Marian pilgrims urged to evangelize in Vietnam

Faithful celebrate Feast of the Assumption of Mary at Our Lady of La Vang national shrine
Marian pilgrims urged to evangelize in Vietnam

Marian devotees attend Mass on Aug. 15 at the national shrine of Our Lady of La Vang in Vietnam's Quang Tri province. (Photo by Peter Nguyen) reporter, La Vang
August 16, 2018
Church leaders in Vietnam have asked crowds of pilgrims to follow martyrs to bring God's love to others in celebration of the Assumption at a national Marian shrine.

Thousands of Marian devotees gathered to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary on Aug. 14-15 at the 220-year-old national shrine of Our Lady of La Vang in Quang Tri province in central Vietnam.

Four bishops and hundreds of priests concelebrated special Masses and other services during the annual gathering.

Bishop Peter Nguyen Van De of Thai Binh told the congregation that Mother Mary and their ancestors enjoyed the Divine Mercy and brought it into action. "Vietnamese martyrs bravely bore witness to the Divine Mercy at the cost of their own lives so that we can enjoy eternal life," he said.

An estimated 300,000 Catholics suffered and were killed for their faith during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Among them, 117 martyrs were canonized on June 19, 1988, by Pope St. John Paul II.

The national shrine is one of the major venues for Catholics across Vietnam to go to on pilgrimages during a jubilee year to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the canonization that ends on Nov. 24, the martyrs' feast day.

"We should not keep eternal life for ourselves but bring it to other people because it is the mandate of Jesus," Bishop De said in his homily.

The Salesian bishop said his diocese covering the provinces of Thai Binh and Hung Yen has only 145,000 Catholics out of a total population of 5.2 million. The church in Vietnam serves 7 million Catholics among a population of 95 million.

"It is because few of us do evangelization work, not because people hate Jesus. I am a bishop and preach the Word of God in churches. I have never talked about Jesus to followers of other faiths," Bishop De admitted, adding that the local church has no concrete plans to evangelize non-Catholics.

Emeritus Archbishop Francis Xavier Le Van Hong of Hue said Our Lady of La Vang is the mother of those who suffer hardships.

During the two-day pilgrimage, Marian devotees attended Masses, recited rosaries, offered flowers to Mother Mary, went to confession, watched prayer dances and marched in procession behind a Marian statue decorated with flowers and candles.

Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh of Hue led a service to offer incense in front of martyrs' relics and reflect on martyrdom in today's society. They also prayed to Mary to heal patients and those wounded in accidents and to give peace to victims of injustice, displaced and homeless people.

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